Governor Christie has signed legislation that increases the rights of crime victims.

He says the measure focuses on "the expansion and the clarification that victims have the right to be free from harassment and abuse by any person, including the defendant or any person acting in support of or on behalf of the defendant. It assures that medical assistance is provided to the victim if it relates to the incident involved- it gives the expansion of rights to confer with the prosecutors representative to be kept informed, as well as timely notification regarding case progress and scheduling of court proceedings or appearances."

He says the legislation also gives "consideration of victims statements in pre-trial determinations and plea agreements, and the right to be present at open court proceedings, unless they're sequestered by the court…And allowing victims' families in homicide prosecutions to display pictures of the victim during the sentencing statements…And the measure furthers the commitment to ensure that crime victims in our state have every protection that they deserve and are afforded the rights that are guaranteed to them under our Constitution."

Christie adds, "As unfortunate as it may be, the victims of crime and their families can fall between the cracks- even with well intentioned prosecutors, who are focused on proving out the crime…This is about understanding that the whole legal proceeding has on the process of healing for people who have lost loved ones or had their loved ones profoundly injured… Part of making sure that justice is done is treating the victims and their families with respect and dignity as well- that helps the healing process for them."

Richard Pompelio, the Director of the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center, says "The most important feature of the legislation is victims now have direct standing under the law to come into court and file a motion with the court to ask the court to address their civil rights and their constitutional rights as crime victims. No longer can a court say you're not a party to this action - you don't have the right to have your rights adjudicated."

He says up until now, when you've been the victim of a crime in Jersey "you quickly find out that you're not really a part of the process- that the criminal justice system is about the state and the defendant…The prosecutors office is not geared to address victims issues, so the victim is kind of like a 3rd wheel in this whole process. This bill gives victims a voice and a face."

Courtesy Governor's Office